Here are the 5 questions I asked a number of Grandmasters and International Masters:

1. Who do you think will win the match?
2. What is your final score prediction?
3. How would you describe the strengths and weaknesses of each player?
4. Does playing in Sofia give Topalov an advantage (home crowd) or disadvantage (too much distraction with the national media, family and friends)?
5. Do you think the age difference between Topalov (35) and Anand (40) is significant? What do you think is an optimal age in a professional chess player’s career

Here is the view from my sister Sofia Polgar:

Here are the views from GM Robert Hess and GM Boris Gulko:

Here are the views from GM Fabiano Caruana, GM Alex Onischuk, and GM Lev Alburt:

Here are some more answers:

IM Anna Zatonskih, U.S. Women’s Champion

1. I am not ready to make this prediction. They are so strong players with similar style. Topalov probably has better chances.

2. It will be very close match. Around 6-6, or 5,5-6,5.

3. I think Topalov has an aggressive style. I have never seen him tired. He is playing every game with such energy like it is first and last game in his life. I admire it and I was wondering how can he do it?!

Anand is a very experienced player and his style is universal. His match vs. Kramnik makes me think that Anand is a great match player and he organizes his team work splendidly!

4. I think it gives Topalov advantage. Anand could not arrive in time because of flight cancellations and he didn’t have much time for acclimatization. Topalov’s friends and family probably understand importance of this match and don’t disturb him.

5. I don’t think 5 years gives any advantage in such age. Between 15 and 20 there is a difference. Difficult question about optimal age. I am sure it is a very individual. For some players it is 20 for some 45. Ketivan Arakhamia improved her chess and became a GM at age of 40. Some chess players didn’t make any progress since age of 15.

GM Vinay Bhat, 2009 SPICE Cup B co-champion

1. I want Anand to win the match (amongst other things, he’s been my favorite active player since I was starting out), so even if I have some doubts, I’ll go with him.

2. 6.5 – 5.5 Anand

3. I think both players have excellent opening preparation, although the effects of their preparation are often different. Topalov’s novelties often seem to be more spectacular, and have more of an effect of putting the opponent under practical pressure while being objectively less dangerous. Anand has ideas that more often permanently change the assessment of a line, and I think more often they are with black, either taking the sting out of a line or reversing an assessment.

Topalov’s energy at the board is a real asset, maybe he’s the most similar to Kasparov amongst active players in that aspect. That energy helps him find dynamic possibilities, but it also opens him up to more blunders. He also speeds up his rate of play when he has the initiative, which can be both good and bad. I think Anand is the better defender in general, and that will be quite useful in turning back some of Topalov’s attacks and some of his hurried play. More than match experience (which I don’t rate too highly, especially in a 12 game match), I think that will be a key factor as I think Anand will save a couple tough or just bad positions.

I also rate Anand’s “understanding” a little higher, which I think will give him a small plus with the white pieces in dealing with any new ideas Topalov throws his way. He’s the better Sicilian and Lopez player in my relatively patzer-ish view.

Whatever their strengths and weaknesses are, chess-wise they aren’t very far apart, and so I think it will be a very close match.

4. I think it gives Topalov an advantage to play in Sofia. He’s sheltered from the outside world during matches/tournaments, so I don’t think it will bother him at all and instead give him some extra confidence that everybody is rooting for him.

5. I don’t think the age difference is particularly significant in a relatively short match like this – if it was 24 games maybe, 48 games for sure.

GM Ben Finegold, 2009 SPICE Cup B co-champion, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis

1. Anand

2. +1 for Anand

3. Anand has no weakness chess-wise, but sometimes phones it in. He will not do that in a match. Anand calculates brilliantly and has incredible experience. Topalov plays badly sometimes but he general level of play is top. He is inconsistent over a long period. He has less match experience than Anand. He has great opening prep and a ferocious will to win.

4. Huge edge to Topalov playing in Sofia.

5. Age not really important. I think players can be at their best between 25 and 45, it depends on the player.

I would like to thank all of my friends who took time to share their views with the chess enthusiasts worldwide. Many more comments and assessments will be published over the next 10 games.

Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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